What’s Behind our Inferiority Complex

When I was growing up in Petal, Mississippi, I felt a steady sense of being out-of-place. I didn’t play sports; my dad didn’t take me hunting; I paid the reduced price for my school lunch; and we weren’t Southern Baptists like almost everyone else in town. These were a few of the clues that helped me see that I didn’t belong.

It’s remarkable how easy it is to carry that sense of inferiority and exclusion into adulthood. Even though I live in Washington, D.C., where almost everyone has achieved something impressive, I often meet grown adults who only appear to be confident people. But inside, they constantly battle the feeling that they need to prove who they are and apologize for who they’re not.

A couple of years ago, my friend Tim Schultz wrote me about this sad phenomenon, and this is what he said:

“You know the old line from Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’? It’s true, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent – but if you build your identity on anything but Jesus, you have given your consent.

“And think about why this is . . . Let’s say I build my identity around being a great parent. When I encounter greater parents, I’ll feel inferior. When I fail as a parent (which is inevitable), I’ll feel inferior. Same thing if I build my identity around being a great spouse, or a great lawyer, or whatever. There will always be someone better, and there will always be failures.

“Every substitute savior effectively demands perfect performance to escape the feeling of inferiority. The real Savior says, ‘Stop performing. I’ve performed for you. Now get off that hamster wheel and enjoy real life in Me.’

“Lots of things promise fulfillment. Jesus is the only one who can accurately claim, ‘Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’” (Matthew 11:28).


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  1. Graeme Phillips

    Self-esteem is an overrated trait. Romans 12:3: – “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Luke 14:7-11, the passage about seating arrangements, springs to mind.


  2. Amen and thank you for sharing this.


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